Yes, the USDA has been fibbing and it's official: Organic milk is vastly superior to conventional milk. No matter how many times the USDA and the National Dairy Council tell us that there is not a single difference between organic and conventional milk, our taste buds tell a whole different story. Yes, we already knew organic milk tastes much better than conventional, but now we have a scientific explanation for why. Scientists have found that organic milk has such higher levels of nutrients that it’s fairly shocking the dairy industry has been telling us otherwise.
The recent study led by Newcastle University researchers proves that organic farmers who let their cows graze as nature intended are producing far better quality milk. The Nafferton Ecological Farming Group study found that grazing cows on organic farms in the UK produce milk which contains significantly higher beneficial fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins than their conventional ‘high input’ counterparts. During the summer months, one of the beneficial fats in particular – conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA9 – was found to be an impressive 60% higher in organic milk.
In the US, the National Dairy Council falsely tells consumers that, “There is no difference between organic and regular milk. Both contain the same unique package of nutrients that makes dairy products an important part of a healthy diet.” (Emphasis added)
Sure there’s no difference—just like there is no difference between Ferrari’s Enzo and a Geo Metro. Just like there is no difference between the colors of red and blue (I mean, they’re both colors, right?) Just like there is no difference between a Chihuahua and a Pit Bull, just like there is no...Okay, I’ll stop now. My point is, that there is a difference, and it’s a significant one!
‘We have known for some time that what cows are fed has a big influence on milk quality,’ explained Gillian Butler, livestock project manager for the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group at Newcastle University, who led the study. ‘What is different about this research is it clearly shows that on organic farms, letting cows graze naturally, using forage-based diet, is the most important reason for the differences in the composition between organic and conventional milk.
‘We’ve shown that significant seasonal differences exist, with nutritionally desirable fatty acids and antioxidants being highest during the summer, when the cows are eating fresh grass and clover.
The study, which involved Newcastle scientists working with the Danish Institute for Agricultural Science, is part of the ongoing cross-European Quality Low Input Food project into animal health and welfare, milk quality and working towards minimizing the use of antibiotics in dairy production.
‘This paper is a major milestone in the project and clearly shows that if you manage livestock naturally then it’s a win-win situation for both us and them,’ said Professor Carlo Leifert, project co-coordinator.
Gordon Tweddle, of Acorn Dairy in County Durham, is a local supplier of organic milk. ‘We have believed for some time that organic milk is better for us and our customers tell us it tastes better,’ he said. ‘It is satisfying to have the scientific explanation as to why it is also nutritionally better.’
This current research confirms previous studies in the UK, which reported higher concentrations of omega 3 fatty acids in milk from organic production systems than conventional ones.
CLA, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and carotenoids have all been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. CLA is hugely popular in the US, where it is marketed as a nutritional supplement. However, synthetic supplements often contain compounds with a different chemical composition (isomer balance) than those occurring naturally in milk, resulting in an equal dose of both ‘good’ (i.e. CLA9, omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin E and carotenoids) and ‘less desirable’ fatty acids (i.e. omega-6 fatty acids and CLA10).
‘Switching to organic milk provides an alternative, natural way to increase our intake of nutritionally desirable fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants without increasing our intake of less desirable fatty acids and synthetic forms of vitamin E,’ said Mrs Butler. ‘In organic milk, the omega-3 levels increase but the omega-6 does not, which helps to improve the crucial ratio between the two.’
So here’s the bottom line: The USDA and National Dairy Council are big fat fibbers. Organic milk is better for you. Period. Now I can’t wait for disgruntled conventional dairy farmer to start posting nasty comments. I will respond to them in advance: Shut up and start making me some delicious organic milk.
Posted by Rebecca Sato
*This post is an adaptation of a Newcastle University news release.